Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lemon Pudding Cake

OK, so do you have about an hour and a half, just a couple of ingredients and some kitchen hardware, and want dessert? Good for you. You might or might not want to keep reading.

So here's what you do. You take two lemons, and you zest them.

Now, if you don't cook much, "zest" is the yellow part of the lemon skin, without any of the acidic white part under it. There are any number of ways to do it. Here's mine.
Yes, that's a microplane grater. Bought it at the hardware store. We only use it for food. (Trust me on that part. Sawdust should never be considered a food product.)

(On that subject, of course, look up the term "cellulose," and groove on how often it turns up in prepared food. Just a thought.)

The recipe calls for one and a half teaspoons of zest. I got this.
That's probably a tablespoon and a half. Maybe two. You got a problem with that? Yeah, then screw you, too.

Now, once you've taken a lot of the yellow off the outside of the lemon, you should probably juice it. (Sure, you can wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Where it will turn interesting colors and eventually get rushed to the outside garbage can. Or you can just juice the damned thing now, OK?)

Fortunately, we need some of that juice now, too. First, you do this.
Yeah, seems obvious, right? This dessert is so goddamned simple, you'll be able to make it, like a champ, even if you needed that last step. OK?

Now, here's what I use. If you paid more than two bucks for it, you're an idiot.
It's a juicer. It isn't hard to use. Trust me.
OK, so you're done with that? Good. Leave it. You'll get back to it later.

Step one, you preheat the oven to about 350 degrees. You're also going to need a pot of boiling water.

Now, you take a 1/4 cup flour. The recipe says "sifted." I say "fuck it." We'll see who's right.
Add a cup of sugar, and the recipe says "1/4 teaspoon salt." Here's what I do.
You're measuring? Salt is cheap. Measure some, pour it into your palm, and remember what that looks like. And then never measure it again, OK?

Dumped that in? Now, that's all the really dry stuff. Remember that "sift" thing? Stir it with a fork. Trust me. The sugar and the salt breaks that shit up pretty well. Just do it.

Now you're going to get into some fancier cooking shit, OK? You get to separate two eggs. There's plenty of Youtube videos to teach you how to do this. Basically, you crack the egg carefully, and pour it back and forth between the shell halves, over a mixing bowl to catch the egg white. Then you drop the yolk into a different bowl.
So, what you end up with is this. You got a bowl with the yolks, and a mixing bowl with the whites.
Technically, you might notice that there are 3 yolks there. What happened was, in separating the second egg, the yolk broke, and I got some in with the whites. So I had to start over. The other yolk was fine, though, so why toss it?

So the recipe calls for 2 whites and 2 yolks. Will this be an issue? Hopefully not.

The whites get whipped in the mixer; while they're doing that, whip the yolks with a fork, just enough to mix them. The egg whites need to get to stiff peaks, so turn the mixer up to high, until they look like this.
Now, the recipe called for 1.5 teaspoons of zest. I've probably got 3 to 4 times that. It all goes in,
along with 1/4 cup of that lemon juice I squoze earlier,
the egg yolks and a cup of milk.
Just stir it enough to mix, and then fold in the egg whites.
(Basically, I dumped the whites on top, then used the spatula to slice through at an angle, and pull some of the liquid to the top. Do that a couple of times, and it's mixed reasonably well.

You can pour the mix into a 7.5" casserole dish, or, like I did, ramekins (some people call them custard cups); you put whichever you use into a baking pan.
Now, if you want to take a chance at hurting yourself or making a mess, you can do this some other way. What I do is I opened the oven door, pulled the rack halfway out of the oven, put the pan on the rack, and pour the boiling water (remember that from earlier?) about halfway up the cups, until it's even with the top of the batter in the cups.
Carefully slide the rack back in and close the oven. The recipe said to let it cook for 45-50 minutes. I checked them at 35 minutes, they were browned on top, and I pulled them.

Carefully remove from the oven. Now's another tricky part: the water is still boiling, and you need to get the cups out of it. (If you used a casserole, it's easier - just lift that shit out.) I took a big spoon in one hand, and an oven mitt on the other,
and transferred them to a cooling rack. (There will be a little dripping here. Keep being careful.)
And there you have it - six cups of lemony awesomeness. You have to let them cool before eating, but it's got a cakey crust on top, creamy, lemony bit on the bottom - it's amazing.
After I made it, the Trophy Wife told me that I was supposed to start with cold water in the pan - it'll boil in the oven. (Did that change the cooking time? Probably not 10-15 minutes worth - I also live in Albuquerque, a mile above sea level.)

This recipe is pretty much impossible to mess up. Everything I screwed up as I was making it, and it was still incredible.

In case it's important to you, here's the original recipe, from the 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook.

Lemon Cake Pudding

Sift together in mixing bowl:
    1/4 cup sifted flour
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 tsp salt
Stir in:
    1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind (1 lemon)
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    2 egg yolks, well beaten
    1 cup milk
Fold in:
    2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Pour into 1 1/2 quart casserole (7 1/2") or 6 custard cups. set in a pan of water (1" deep). Bake. Serve warm or cold, with or without whipped cream.

Temperature: 350 degrees (mod. oven)
Time: Bake 45 to 50 minutes
Amount: 6 servings